Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

by Penelope Douglas
Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

by Penelope Douglas


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Notes From Your Bookseller

With an ample supply of angst and romantic tension to keep it all together, this is a New Adult romance that’s spicier than you’ll find in the Young Adult space.

True love comes from the most forbidden places in this TikTok smash hit from New York Times bestselling author Penelope Douglas, now with bonus material!

Jordan has nowhere else to go when her boyfriend offers to let her move in with him and his dad. Working a dead-end job, with her relationship sputtering, she jumps at the opportunity, expecting to help out around the house in exchange.  What she doesn’t anticipate is for her heart to race every time Pike pulls into the driveway, or to burn when their eyes meet over the breakfast table. He’s kind and listens to her and protects her in a way no man ever has before. Her sister once told her there are no good men, and if you find one, he's probably unavailable. Only Pike isn't the unavailable one…she is.

As the days go by, Pike’s finding it anything but simple to have his son’s girlfriend living in his house. He can’t stop thinking about her and holding his breath every time they cross paths. It feels like she’s becoming a part of him. Except he knows they’re not free to give in to this. How could they when he’s her boyfriend’s father?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593641965
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/26/2023
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 3,135
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Penelope Douglas is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Their books have been translated into twenty languages and include The Fall Away Series, The Hellbent Series, The Devil’s Night Series, and the stand-alones, Misconduct, Punk 57, Birthday Girl, Credence, and Tryst Six Venom. They live in New England with their husband and daughter.

Read an Excerpt



He's not answering. This is the second time I've called in fifteen minutes, and I've been texting without any luck, too. Was he planning on still remembering to be here at two?

I end the call and glance up at the clock above the bar, seeing it's nearly midnight now. Still two hours before my boyfriend thinks I'm off work and need to be picked up.

And here I thought we got a lucky surprise tonight, me getting off early.


I need to get my car running. I can't keep relying on him for rides.

The music fills the air around me, customers laughing to my right and one of the other bartenders filling the cooler with ice to my left.

Unease pricks at the back of my neck. If he's not answering, then he's either asleep or out. Both could mean he'll remember me after it's too late. He's not always unreliable, but this wouldn't be the first time, either.

That's the problem with making your friend your boyfriend, I guess. He still thinks he can get away with murder.

I grab my shirt and school bag out of the cabinet underneath the taps and slide my phone into my pocket. I pull on a flannel over my tank top, button it up, and tuck the front of the hem into my jeans, covering myself. I'll dress a little sexy for tips, but I'm not about to walk out of here like that.

"Where are you going?" Shel asks, peering at me as she draws a beer.

I glance over at my boss, her black hair with blond chunks piled on top of her head and a string of tiny hearts tattooed around her upper arm.

"There's a midnight showing of Evil Dead at the Grand Theater," I tell her as I close the cabinet and slide the strap of my leather satchel over my head. "I'll go kill time and wait for Cole there."

She finishes pouring her beer and looks at me like there are a million things she wants to say but she doesn't even know where to start.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

I wish she'd stop looking at me like that. There's a good possibility Cole won't be here at two a.m. considering he's not answering the phone right now. I know that. He could be three sheets to the wind at some friend's house.

Or he could be at home sleeping with the alarm set to come get me at two and his phone left in another room. It's not likely, but it's possible. He's got two hours. I'll give him two hours.

Besides, my sister is at work, and no one here can leave to drive me home. Work is slow tonight, and I got cut early because I'm the only one without a child to support.

Even though I desperately need the money just the same.

I grip the strap of the bag over my chest, feeling like I should be older than eighteen.

Well, nineteen now, I think, almost forgetting what today is.

I take a deep breath, pushing the worry away for tonight. A lot of people my age struggle for money, can't pay bills, and have to bum rides. I know it's too much to expect that I'd have everything figured out by now, but it's still embarrassing. I hate looking helpless.

And I can't blame Cole, either. It was my decision to use what was left of my student loan money to help him fix his car. He's been there for me, too. At one time, we were all the other one had.

Turning around, Shel sets the beer on the bar in front of Grady-one of the regulars-and takes his cash, shooting me another look as she enters the sale into the register. "You don't have a functioning vehicle," she states. "And it's dark outside. You can't walk to the theater. Sex slavers are just looking for hot teenage girls with blond hair and shit."

I snort. "You need to stop watching Lifetime movies."

We might be an easy distance to some larger towns, and Chicago is only a few hours away, but we're still in the middle of nowhere.

I lift up the partition and walk out from behind the bar. "The theater is right around the block," I tell her. "I'll make it in ten seconds if I run like I'm being graded."

I pat Grady on the back as I leave, the gray hair of his ponytail swaying as he turns to wink at me. "Bye, kiddo," he says.


"Jordan, wait," Shel shouts over the jukebox, and I turn my head to look at her.

I watch as she pulls a box out of the cooler along with a single-serving box of wine and pushes them both across the bar at me.

"Happy birthday," she says, smirking at me like she knows I probably think she forgot.

I break into a smile and lift the small Krispy Kreme box lid and see half a dozen donuts.

"It was all I could pick up in a hurry," she explains.

Hey, it's cake. Kind of. I'm not complaining.

I close the box and lift the flap of my leather bag, hiding my loot inside, wine and all. I didn't expect anyone to get me anything, of course, but it's still nice to be remembered. Cam, my sister, will no doubt surprise me with a pretty shirt or a sexy pair of earrings tomorrow when I see her, and my dad will probably call me sometime this week.

Shel knows how to make me laugh, though. I'm old enough to work in a bar but not old enough to drink. Enjoying the wine she's sneaking me, off the premises, will be my little adventure tonight.

"Thank you," I say and hop up on the bar, planting a kiss on her cheek.

"Be safe," she tells me.

I nod once and spin around, heading out the wooden door and stepping out onto the sidewalk.

The door shuts behind me, the music inside now a dull thrumming, and my chest caves, releasing the breath I didn't realize I'd been holding.

I love her, but I wish she wouldn't worry about me. She looks at me like she's my mom and wants to fix everything.

I guess I should've been so lucky as to have a mom like her.

The welcome fresh air washes over me, the late-night chill sending goose bumps up my arms, and the fragrant scent of May flowers wafts through my nostrils. I tip my head back, close my eyes, and breathe in a lungful as my long bangs tickle my cheek in the light breeze.

Hot summer nights are coming.

I open my eyes and look left and then right, seeing the sidewalks are empty, but cars still line both sides of the street. The VFA parking lot is also full. Their bingo night usually turns into a bar scene this late, and it looks like the old-timers are still going strong.

Turning left, I pull the rubber band out of my hair, letting the loose curls fall down, and slip the band around my wrist as I start walking.

The night feels good, even though it is still a little crisp out. There's too much liquor in every crevice in the bar, seeping up into my nose all night.

Too much noise and too many eyes, as well.

I pick up the pace, excited to disappear into the dark theater for a while. Normally, I don't go alone, but when they're showing an older eighties flick like Evil Dead, I have to. Cole is all about special effects and doesn't trust films made before 1995.

I smile, thinking about his quirks. He doesn't know what he's missing. The eighties were fantastic. It's a whole decade of just good fun. Not everything had to have a meaning or be deep.

It's a welcome escape, especially tonight.

Rounding the corner and making my way up to the ticket booth, I see I'm a few minutes early, which is great. I hate missing the trailers at the beginning.

"One, please," I tell the cashier.

I fish out the wad of tips that I made tonight from my pocket and dole out the seven-fifty for the ticket. Not that I have money to spare with rent coming due and a small pile of bills on Cole's and my desk back at our apartment that we can't pay yet, but it's not like seven bucks will make or break me.

And it's my birthday, so . . .

Walking inside, I bypass the concession stand and head for the next set of double doors. There's only one theater, and surprisingly, this place has survived for sixty years even in the wake of the bigger twelve-theater cinema centers built in the surrounding towns. The Grand had to get creative with midnight showings of classic movies like tonight, but also dress-up events and private parties, too. I don't get down here much with my school and work schedule, but it's a nice, dark place when you want to get lost for a while. Private and quiet.

Stepping through the doors, I check my phone one more time to see that Cole hasn't called or texted yet. I turn my ringer off and slide it back into my pocket.

Some ads loop on the screen, but the houselights are still on, and I quickly scan the room, seeing a few loners spread out. There's also a couple sitting in the back row to my right, and a small group of guys is in the middle-young by the sound of their inconsiderately loud laughter. Out of about three hundred seats, two hundred eighty-five are still available, and I pretty much have my pick.

I walk down five or six rows, finding an empty one, and slide in, taking a seat midway in. I set down my bag and quietly pull out the purple box of wine, reading the label in the dim light.

Merlot. I was hoping it was white wine, but I'm sure Shel needs to get rid of this stuff. We only serve it when there's an outdoor event and we don't want glass outside.

Unscrewing the cap, I sniff the pungent scent, not sensing in the least any of the fancy aromas that sommeliers seem to grasp from wine. No hint of oak with a "bold aroma of sweet cherries" or anything like that. Sliding my tray in front of me, I take advantage of the empty row ahead and bend up my knees, fitting my Chucks in between the empty seats on the armrest.

Setting the box down, I slip my phone out of my back pocket, just in case Cole calls, and plop it on the tray next to the wine.

But instead, it spills off the tray. It falls down between my legs and onto the floor, and I jerk up my knees to try to catch it, but they bump the tray and send the open box of wine spilling to the floor.

My mouth falls open, and I gasp. "Shit!" I blurt out in a whisper.

What the hell?

Planting my feet on the floor again, I push the tray off to the side and dive down to the floor, feeling around for my phone. My fingers dip in the spilled wine, and I flinch at the mess. Glancing up over the seats, I see the group of three guys a few rows down, dead ahead of me and right in line with the oncoming winefall.

I groan. Great.

A light layer of sweat cools my forehead, and I stand up, yanking my scarf out of my bag to dry off my fingers. I hate to ruin it, but I don't have any napkins.

What a mess.

So much for escaping for two hours.

I look around for an usher with a light, pretty positive this theater doesn't employ them, especially at this time of night, but the only flashlight I have is on my phone, and the floors are dark.

Seeing no one, I take my scarf and bag and travel down to the next row, bending down and peering under the seats to see if I can see my cell. When I find nothing, I move up to the next row and then to the next, pretty sure I heard it slide a ways. Since the rows of seats are on a decline, it could've gone far, too. Dammit.

Moving up to the next row, I set my stuff down and drop to my hands and knees, peering under the rows to my left and right, feeling with my hands. A pair of long, jean-clad legs sits ahead, and I look up, seeing a man sitting in the seat with fingers full of popcorn halfway to his mouth. He stares down at me with raised eyebrows.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, tucking my hair behind my ear. "I dropped my drink and my phone went sliding down here somewhere. Do you mind . . .?"

He hesitates a moment and then blinks, sitting up. "Yeah, sure." He moves his tray aside and stands up, digging something out of his pocket. "Here."

He turns on the flashlight on his phone and squats down, shining it under the seats.

Immediately, I spot my phone under the seat next to his and snatch it up. Thank goodness. We both stand up, and my shoulders relax. I can't afford a replacement right now. I smooth my fingers over the screen, making sure I don't feel any cracks.

"Got it?" he asks.

"Yeah, thank you."

He kills his flashlight but reaches over, swiping his fingers over the bottom of my phone, and brings them to his nose, smelling.

"Is that"-he winces-"wine?"

I glance down at the floor, seeing he's standing in the drink I spilled three rows up.

"Oh, geez." I look up at him. "I'm so sorry. Is it everywhere?"

"No, no, it's fine." He lets out a chuckle, his lips curving more to one side with his smile as he steps out of the mess. "I didn't realize they sold alcohol here."

I grab my scarf and wipe off my phone. "Oh, they don't," I tell him quietly so I don't disturb the others in the theater. "I just got off work. My boss gave it to me for a . . . um"-I shake my head, searching for words-"to, uh . . . celebrate."


"Shhh," someone hisses.

We both look to the guy one row back and far to the right who's shooting us a glare out of the corner of his eye. Neither the trailers nor the movie has started yet, and we're not in his line of sight, but I guess we're disturbing him. I move away, back toward my bag.

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